How would you like to attend a pop-up food event that doesn’t include happy hour craft cocktails or beer, a hefty dinner seat charge, or having to call a rideshare service afterward to avoid driving while under the influence?
Think bicycling to work and starting the workday in the company of interesting people, all enjoying a little downtown sidewalk time and a warm breakfast waffle topped with fresh fruit and organic maple syrup.
A small team of architects from Lake/Flato cooked up the new event that holds promise to spread through the urban core as more people experience the healthy community breakfast and join in with their own sidewalk gatherings.
It’s called Bike4Breakfast, and the day starts with leaving the car at home, riding your bike, taking the bus or walking to work, and rewarding that effort with good company and a delicious waffle breakfast. The first such event was held May 15 on National Ride Your Bike to Work Day. Three more pop-up breakfasts have occurred since then, one each month. The fifth monthly Bike4Breakfast will be held Friday, Sept. 26, from 8-9:15 a.m. outside the Lake/Flato offices at 311 Third St.
Credit three of the firm’s architects, veteran 21-year partner Matt Morris, and one-year recruits Michael Britt and Corey Squire – all committed cyclists – with creating the event.
“Michael and I were on a morning workout ride heading south through the Missions, and we had been talking to Corey, and we just decided, ‘We ought to cook waffles,’” Morris said. “We all love waffles. We’re architects and waffles are sort of architectural. They have a grid, they’re structural…”
Britt, a St. Louis transplant to San Antonio, said the idea grew out of his time living and working in San Francisco.
“The city has the San Francisco Bike Coalition, which has a very active membership and advocates for progressive cycling policies there,” Britt said. “Once a year, they have a free cookies and coffee event. We need a strong cycling coalition in San Antonio to work with the city, and we thought waffles were better than cookies and a good start.”
Squire said Lake/Flato embarked in May on a one-year effort to gain LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance) status for its downtown period brick building and the firm’s 80-person staff. The rating recognizes sustainability practices in existing buildings and businesses.
“Fifteen of the 100 points are based on alternative transportation usage by the building’s workforce,” Squire said. “75% of the staff has to come to work via alternative transportation to earn all 15 points. We’re at 65% participation, which is worth 12 points.”
The Lake/Flato garage and a small outdoor space together include around 45 parking spaces for a staff of 80. The building’s basement looks like a high-end used bike shop with a few dozen road bikes parked amid boxes of construction documents, architectural plans, hand-crafted models and other artifacts from the firm’s 30 years in business. Two showers were added to make biking to work possible even in the hot summer months.
Squire, a New Orleans native, said he used to pick up that essential San Antonio morning staple – breakfast tacos – for his colleagues attending weekly sustainability meetings “because they are so cheap.”
But tacos, heavy in saturated fats and salt, are synonymous with the city’s weight problem.
“Buying the ingredients for fresh waffles, fresh fruit, and organic maple syrup, all from Central Market, is cheaper than buying breakfast tacos and a lot healthier,” Squire said.
And a far more original idea. A photo of an empty Lake/Flato garage on a Bike4Breakfast day illustrates the growing popularity of the event (see photo below). Dozens of the firm’s employees are participating now, and for the third event, the first outsiders were invited, including the Third Street Grackles cycling team, which includes many Lake/Flato architects, and Overland Partners, the architecture firm that recently relocated its offices from Alamo Heights to 203 E. Jones Ave. at the corner of Broadway Street.
“If people can just get over that psychological hurdle and ride their bike to work just once, they’ll experience a breakthrough,” Britt said. “If we can get other offices to do this, either in rotation, or everyone doing it at the same time on the same morning, it could become something really special.”
“Lecturing people to get out of their cars isn’t any fun, but this event is fun,” Morris said. “All of this happened while we were going 17 miles per hour on our bikes. The big ideas always come while we’re on the bike.”
The Rivard Report missed the July Bike4Breakfast, but we attended the August event and it felt like we were witnessing something new, something organic, and something unique to San Antonio and not imported from another city.
Bikes were everywhere on the sidewalk, parked under trees and along the building facade. Small clusters of people patiently waited while Morris, Britt, Squire, and their colleague Casey Nelson, Lake/Flato’s “office vegan,” watched over three waffle makers. As some finished breakfast, others arrived. The Bike4Breakfast organizers looked like they had matters firmly in hand.
“We got the recipe down by the second event, and now we make the batter the night before,” Squire said. Adding yeast, he said, makes for lighter waffles. Serving tables and bike racks are hauled up from the basement to the sidewalk, and a canopy tent is erected, although the morning I attended, the sidewalk sat in the shade of the building and no one seemed to have broken a sweat pedaling to work at that hour.
“We did have a little drama the morning of the third Bike4Breakfast,” Morris said. “Corey got stuck in the elevator coming up from the basement and we finally had to call the fire department for help.”
Four fire trucks and a Hazmat vehicle arrived at the scene, and after 20 minutes Squire was freed and able to rejoin the event after first posing with his rescuers.
Not everyone in the firm has joined in, and organizers say you have to at least ride a bike around the block to qualify for a waffle plate.
“Some people come to work in their cars and walk right by us on the sidewalk without making eye contact or saying anything,” Squire said. “We jokingly call it the ‘Walk of Shame’ but we want everyone to participate and enjoy the event. It’s a great way to bring a space to life that sits empty most of the time.”
Morris said Bike4Breakfast has allowed people within the firm that don’t often connect to get to know one another better.
“We’re stratified in this office – especially those of us on the third floor – so it’s been a great way to get to know one another better,” he said.
Interested in riding your bike to work and attending the Sept. 26 Bike4Breakfast? If you’ve read this story, you’re invited. Please give the organizers advance warning if you’re coming by posting a comment here with your name and professional affiliation. That way no one will be turned away without a tasty waffle.